HC Deb 14 October 1952 vol 505 cc10-1
19. Mr. Swingler

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the monthly totals of defence expenditure since the beginning of the current financial year; and at what annual rate this expenditure is now running.

Mr. R. A. Butler

For the reasons given in my reply to my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), on 17th June, it is not the practice to publish figures of Departmental disbursements at short intervals. A monthly hgure would certainly be no reliable guide to the year's out-turn.

Mr. Swingler

Can the Chancellor now tell the House what was the firm programme of defence expenditure on which the late Government had decided, and what was the relation between that programme and the programme of exports, which the Government are trying to promote?

Mr. Butler

The answer to that question would entail a public debate, but if the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a specific question. I will do my best to answer it.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer the simple point which is contained in the question put to him by my hon. Friend? Can he state whether the annual rate of defence expenditure this year is higher or lower than the annual rate of defence expenditure last year?

Mr. Butler

I have given my reasons for not being able to answer the hon. Gentleman's question, and therefore it becomes equally difficult to answer the question put by the right hon. Gentleman himself. I will say in general that, on the Exchequer out-turn for the past half-year, it was apparent that this year a larger proportion of defence expenditure had fallen in the first quarter of this year than in the comparable period of last year.

Mr. Shinwell

Would that mean that, in the first quarter of this year, the annual rate of defence expenditure was higher than for the equivalent period of last year?

Mr. Butler

Not really. If the right hon. Gentleman had been spending his vacation following up my public speeches, which I recommend to his attention, he would have seen that I have said on one or two occasions that, in the second quarter, defence expenditure showed a decline on the first quarter, and that that just shows the difficulty of making up one's mind on the year's out-turn on figures published periodically.

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